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Jim Caruk offers insider view of home renos in HGTV's `Builder Boss'

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TORONTO - While "the big reveal" remains a centrepiece on home renovation shows, there's considerable time and toiling that occurs behind the scenes to refurbish and transform spaces featured on-air.

Longtime contractor Jim Caruk and his team offer an insider perspective of the pinnacles and pitfalls of home construction on "Builder Boss" which premieres Thursday at 10:30 p.m. ET on HGTV.

"We want (viewers) to understand the building process because it's a huge industry; and I think over the last 10, 12 years it's even gotten bigger with all these shows that are coming out. But what isn't shown on some of these different shows is the actual time element," Caruk said in a recent interview.

"We blow this thing off in 22 minutes, but it's taken us a year to build — and people don't get that concept. And if they don't understand what they're going to get themselves into — if they're going to renovate their home — it's going to be a disaster."

Caruk filmed seven seasons of HGTV's "Real Renos" and said "Builder Boss" takes the previous series to the next level. The show features 13 new builds —nearly double what Caruk and his team would take on in a typical year.

"Needless to say, it was not only exciting but it was definitely gruelling, punishing — everything else to go along with that," said the owner of The Caruk Group.

"Our goal is ... to bring the audience back and take them through the day in the life of a custom builder and show them the real stress and the make-and-break moments of the whole industry. As I like to say, it's time, money and emotion — they don't go well together."

The series debut on Thursday features the massive construction of a luxurious, 4,500 square-foot (418 square-metre) Georgian-style mansion which Caruk estimates will be worth $2.5 million upon completion. The project has a timeline of 10 to 12 months.

After demolishing an old bungalow and excavating for a new foundation, viewers get an up-close view of key steps in the meticulous process, from the building of the basement walls on up. But as the episode unfolds, it becomes apparent the large-scale project isn't immune from potential hiccups.

"Builder Boss" returns to its regular timeslot on June 28 at 10 p.m. ET with back-to-back episodes, including one with a personal connection to Caruk.

He offers to assist his friend, Dave, who wants to get his hair salon business up and running. But first, he must revamp an old Victorian home which doubles as a workspace and living space. Caruk and his team find themselves working on a tight budget and a tight turnaround time of three months for the build.

Future projects set to be featured on "Builder Boss" include a Charleston-style porch with garden and an underground bunker created to house a golf simulator.

For those building a new house, Caruk said the hardest task is "getting out of the hole" — namely, the digging and excavation. Rain can delay the start of the process for several days, and even when the conditions clear up, mud impedes workers from beginning the task — something which homeowners may not be aware of.

"Just because the rain stops, the sun comes out, you can't phone me and say, `Get back in that hole and let's get going.' It doesn't work that way. So those are the things that I walk them through.

"There are going to be days that no one's going to be there. That's just the way the business works. If we're waiting for a subtrade, he can't get there right away — then we have to wait."

Caruk said it's also key for homeowners to determine early on if they plan to take care of selecting all the finishings or if they'll need help in sourcing the products.

"If you can afford to have a designer, even a decorator, just to help move through the process of picking the colours or tiles three, four months in advance, this thing will move along very quickly."

Caruk said there are a few projects featured on "Builder Boss" where homeowners "throw on the brakes" and decided to completely change everything. In the event of a project stops dead, it will require items in the budget to be re-priced or parts of the build to be torn down and started anew.

He acknowledges the work isn't easy. But Caruk said the interactions with people and the challenge of the jobs are what continue to fuel him through the often painstaking process — even when encountering conflicts with clients.

"Everybody can fly off the handle. Somebody's got to be feet planted and just listen to it and take the heat and I'm good at it. I know where it's coming from.

"Most of the time it's not personal, it's just emotion going, and I let them say their piece and everything else and we just go through it. But if you don't have a thick skin and big shoulders you're not going to make it. Simple as that."

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